Moving Toward the Ultimate Interface
The human creation of content and the human interface with computers has, for a century, been based upon the use of keyboards. Typewriters, then electric typewriters were used for all forms of written documents be it letters or books. This was used as the data entry for computers in the early days of mainframes.
When the first PCs came along in the 1970s, the keyboard was the method of interface. This was expanded with the introduction of the mouse. What followed was the obvious need to make the human-machine interface more appealing and accessible, so the graphic user interface (GUI) became the next development. Screens with letters and numbers and blinking dots gave way to icons, pictures and animation. This, along with rapidly dropping prices, made the PC and its subsequent family members the laptop and the notebook computers a consumer product with annual sales in the hundreds of millions.
We are now moving to touch and voice interface. This was what was so revolutionary about the iPhone as was discussed here. It points to the touch interface of computers now coming to market. Voice recognition software has now enabled us to speak names for automatic dialing on our phones or in our luxury cars. “Phone home”, famously spoken by ET is now spoken by hundreds of thousands of people every day in this country.
Humanity is now entering the voice and touch phase of interaction with all technology. In speeches I give around the country I tell audiences that their grandchildren will look at them with incredulity and say “You actually used keyboards?” or even “Keyboards, what are those?” Today, there are many children who when they see an old typewriter don’t know what it is.
What will the next step be? It will be brainwaves, the electrical impulses of the brain that are the physical manifestation of thought. Thought will be the next and probably ultimate interface.
Look no further than a product that will come to market by the end of the year. A company called Emotiv will be introducing a headset that transfers thoughts to the computer screen. This headset, called the EPOC, has electrodes in strategic places that, when worn properly, will transmit the brainwaves of thoughts to the computer. The headset is customized to the user by the establishment of a baseline of response. The software asks the user to imagine 11 different cognitive actions such as “lift” “pull” and “push”, each for a few seconds. This teaches the system to better read such thoughts. The next step is to have the user look at a screen with an image, such as a cube. The computer program, in game form using an oriental sensei, asks the user to “lift” the cube, or “push” the cube. Evidently, with user concentration, there is a rapid ability to actually lift or push the cube on the screen. This of course creates a positive feedback loop, giving the user greater confidence and ability to concentrate.
The ultimate potential of this takes one into the area of brain to computer interface, and ultimately brain to brain communication. The closer-in potential in technology will be the ability to surf the net by concentrated thinking and the creation of video games that have only headsets with electrodes for gamers to use instead of a hand held controller.
The potential application for humans to focus their thinking, change their behavior and ultimately to tap into the unlimited potential of the human brain and its connection with emotion and intention is transformational and unlimited. What only the highest evolved gurus have been reportedly able to do will start to become common practice. In the year 2020, the Emotiv EPOC headset will be looked upon within this realm as the mid-1970s arcade game of Pong is now looked at within the context of video gaming. It is the beginning of a technological, social and cultural phenomenon.
As Thomas Watson the legendary CEO of IBM, and one of the most important figures in the creation of the computer market once famously said: “Think!”.